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Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E

April 17, 2006








TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. Video cards' features
  3. Testbed configuration, benchmarks
  4. Test results
  5. Conclusions



We have recently reviewed RADEON X1900 XTX from ASUS. And today we are going to review essentially the same card from Sapphire.

As it's hard for a compere to moderate a concert, when two actors perform one and the same scene in the same style, it's also very hard for reviewers to write about the same card wrapped in different boxes as about different products from different companies. It's even easier for a compere, as each actor brings something unique to his performance, so there will be no complete match. And in our case all X1900 XTX cards are manufactured by Canadian ATI (to be more exact, this company orders them), so they are all the same, they differ only in boxes, bundles, and certainly prices.

Today we are going to review two currently the most powerful ATI accelerators from Sapphire. One of them is a regular X1900 XTX, the other one is equipped with a special water cooling system.

What concerns the market situation, it does not favour GeForce 7900 GTX so far. Its prices on the Russian market are higher than for the X1900 XTX, so the ATI product can take advantage of this fact. Back in the first article on the 7900 series I wrote that popularity of this or that competitor would depend on pricing.

I must admit though that the 7900 GTX has a huge advantage - it does not get very hot and its cooling system is very quiet! Unlike the heater of the X1900 XTX, which core temperature easily grows to 90-100°C. And the cooler gets noticeably noisy. Here is when a cunning Sapphire device comes in handy. But it will be described below.

Video Cards



Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
GPU: RADEON X1900 XTX (R580)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 650 MHz (nominal — 650 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 775 (1550) MHz (nominal — 775 (1550) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 8

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 48

Number of texture processors: 16

Number of ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x32mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card).

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.




Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
GPU: RADEON X1900 XTX (R580)

Interface: PCI-Express x16

GPU frequencies: 675 MHz (nominal — 650 MHz)

Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 800 (1600) MHz (nominal — 775 (1550) MHz)

Memory bus width: 256bit

Number of Shader Vertex Processors: 8

Number of Shader Pixel Processors: 48

Number of texture processors: 16

Number of ROPs: 16

Dimensions: 205x100x32 mm (the last figure is the maximum thickness of a video card) plus 180x100x16 mm - dimensions of the cooling unit.

PCB color: red.

Output connectors: 2 x DVI (Dual-Link), TV-Out.

VIVO: available (RAGE Theater)

TV-out: integrated into GPU.






Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E; Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
The cards have 512 MB GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in 8 chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung (GDDR3) memory chips. 1.1ns memory access time, which corresponds to 900 (1800) MHz.






Comparison with the reference design, front view
Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB






Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E





Comparison with the reference design, back view
Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E Reference card ATI RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB






Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E





I guess there is no point in describing the cards - reference design. No modifications at all.

The cards have TV-Out with a unique jack. You will need a special bundled adapter to output video to a TV-set via S-Video or RCA

Analog monitors with d-Sub (VGA) interface are connected to DVI with special DVI-to-d-Sub adapters. Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz Max Refresh Rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit x85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface

I guess there is no point in describing the cooling system on the first card - it's of the reference design, we have already written about it many times.

The "ginger" of Blizzard is a cooling system. It resembles the Thermaltake device we already reviewed . That is it's a water cooling system. The card has a GPU unit, which is piped to a large cooling unit (nearly as large as the card itself) that takes up an additional slot in a PC case. Unfortunately, our sample came with a two-slot bracket, which is not required now. But production-line cards will be bundled with a single-slot bracket, so the expansion tank can be installed into the next slot after the video card. Thus, Blizzard will take up as much space as the reference card.




Photos below show Blizzard installed into a system unit. Water cooling fan (which also makes the water circulate) is illuminated. On the whole, the device is elegant and robust.

Fan speed is controlled with a slider on the cooling unit.
















Memory chips are equipped with heatsinks.

Such a complex cooling system allows the manufacturer to raise frequencies from 650/1550 MHz to 675/1600 MHz. Of course, that's not much of overclocking and it will have little effect on performance, but it's still indicative.

Bundle

Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
User's guide, CD with drivers, PowerDVD, DVD with modern games - Brothers in Arms (Road to Hill 30); Prince of Persia (Warrior Within); Richard Burns Rally; Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (it's up to a user to decide which game to activate); DVI-to-d-Sub and S-Video-to-RCA adapters, TV cords, composite output adapter.


Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E
The same bundle as in the previous case.




Packages.

Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E

The company changed its package design more than a year and a half ago. These packages now have bright jackets with cardboard boxes inside. Bundle components are arranged into sections. Packages used to have windows to demonstrate video cards - it made them more attractive and more convenient for users. But now for some reason the company decided to give up plastic inside the box as well as windows. That's a pity. They shouldn't have spoilt the best they did by drawing another mummy from the British museum or a cross between a designer and a hydra.




Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E

They seem to have heard my wishes! We got windows and plastic back. But they have gone from one extreme to another: the entire box is made of plastic; but it's too fragile and these turbid windows show little of the product inside: you can barely make out something suspended inside. Box dimensions are mind-boggling. Who works as a designer in Sapphire, I wonder? a Chinese released from a lunatic asylum for good conduct or another Malevich the avant-gardist? Images on Sapphire boxes offer no end of work for psychiatrists. Especially when a happy owner of the super card sees a wry face of a product of gene engineering or of designer's depression at best.






Installation and Drivers

Testbed configuration:

  • Athlon 64 (939Socket) based computer
    • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (2400MHz) (L2=1024K)
    • Motherboard: ASUS A8N32 SLI Deluxe on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI X16
    • RAM: 2 GB DDR SDRAM 400MHz (CAS (tCL)=2.5; RAS to CAS delay (tRCD)=3; Row Precharge (tRP)=3; tRAS=6)
    • HDD: WD Caviar SE WD1600JD 160GB SATA

  • Operating system: Windows XP SP2 DirectX 9.0c
  • Monitors: ViewSonic P810 (21") and Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070sb (21").
  • ATI CATALYST 6.3; NVIDIA Drivers 84.21.

VSync is disabled.

The Main Point. A water cooling system on Blizzard provided not only a quieter cooler (versus the reference one), but also lower operating temperatures of the card, DESPITE THE INCREASED FREQUENCIES! It's well known that temperature of the GPU on the reference card may reach 95°C and even 100°C. Up to 90°C in a well ventilated PC case.

Blizzard keeps the GPU temperature below 85°C in all conditions! The temperature does not exceed this figure under the heaviest load! And the cooler still operates at minimum speed! That's efficiency!

What concerns overclocking on the whole, the GPU offers a good potential - 720 MHz. But the situation with memory is bad, as memory voltage is reduced (cooling has nothing to do with it), so artifacts start appearing above 1620 MHz, alas.

Test results: performance comparison

We used the following test applications:

  • Splinter Cell Chaos of Theory v.1.04 (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, shaders 3.0 (for NVIDIA cards)/shaders 2.0 (for ATI cards); HDR OFF!

  • Half-Life2 (Valve/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, demo (ixbt01 . The tests were carried out with maximum quality, option -dxlevel 90, presets for video card types are removed from dxsupport.cfg.

  • FarCry 1.33 (Crytek/UbiSoft), DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, demo from the Research level (-DEVMODE startup option), Very High test settings.

  • DOOM III (id Software/Activision) — OpenGL, multitexturing, test settings — High Quality (ANIS8x), demo ixbt1 (33MB!). We have a sample batch file to start the game automatically with increased speed and reduced jerking (precaching) d3auto.rar. (DO NOT BE AFRAID of the black screen after the first menu, that's how it should be! It will last 5-10 seconds and then the demo should start)

  • 3DMark05 1.20 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • 3DMark06 1.02 (FutureMark) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — trilinear,

  • The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay 1.10 (Starbreeze/Vivendi) — OpenGL, multitexturing, maximum texture quality, Shader 2.0, demo 44.

    I wish to thank Rinat Dosayev (AKA 4uckall) and Alexei Ostrovski (AKA Ducche), who have created a demo for this game. I also want to thank Alexei Berillo AKA Somebody Else for his help.

  • F.E.A.R. v.1.02 (Multiplayer) (Monolith/Sierra) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, maximum test settings, Soft shadows disabled.

  • Call Of Duty 2 DEMO (Ubisoft) — DirectX 9.0, multitexturing, test settings — maximum, shaders 2.0, tested in Benchemall, demo and a startup script, readme contains necessary instructions



Summary performance diagrams



The above diagrams lack the X1900 XTX card at 675/1600 MHz. Just add 5% (maximum 8%) to get these results.

Conclusions

  1. Sapphire RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E is just a reference card. I repeat for n-th time that no one manufactures X1900 cards on its own. So you just compare the prices and choose a card. The bundle of this card is quite good.

    The quality of this product is very high, we have no gripes with it (except for the hot GPU and growing cooler noise).

  2. Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E is an excellent overhaul of the previous card. The cooling system is highly efficient. Thanks to its higher frequencies, this accelerator is actually the fastest model these days. So if the price difference between this product and a regular X1900 XTX is not very large, you should pay closer attention to Blizzard. And if this accelerator is cheaper than the GeForce 7900 GTX, you shouldn't hesitate - take it immediately (of course, if you can afford it and if you plan on buying a Hi-End product).



You can find more detailed comparisons of various video cards in our 3Digest.








Sapphire Blizzard RADEON X1900 XTX 512MB PCI-E gets the Original Design award (April).








Theoretical materials and reviews of video cards, which concern functional properties of the GPU ATI RADEON X800 (R420)/X850 (R480)/X700 (RV410) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 (NV40/45)/6600 (NV43)



We express our thanks to
Sapphire Russia
for the provided video cards.



PSU for the testbed was kindly provided by HIPER




Andrey Vorobiev (anvakams@ixbt.com)

April 17, 2006



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